In the first half they were as cold as the snow falling outside. The second half was a whole different ballgame.
The Salisbury University men’s basketball team only scored 22 points in the first half against Marymount University (Va.) Wednesday night, but a 50 point second half gave them a 72-65 win, their fourth at home this season.
Marymount (6-10, 5-4 CAC) controlled the pace of the first half, limiting Salisbury (13-3, 6-3 CAC) to just eight field goals on 30 shot attempts.
“We had no energy in the first half,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Andy Sachs said. “If we came out with energy in the first half it’s not a close game, but give them credit they came to play.”
We did a good job of turning them over 19 turnovers is pretty good, that’s what we do.”
The Sea Gulls are first in defense (58.8) and turnovers forced (18.7) in the Capital Athletic Conference, and junior guard Justin Witmer said defensive stops in the second half was the catalyst to their comeback.
“We just turned up the defense, we forced some turnovers, got some easy layups and it got our offense going.”
Witmer, who is in the top five in three-point percentage in the conference, hit three more from beyond the arc Wednesday night, chipping in 13 points.
“It helps our big guys,” Witmer said about the Sea Gulls’ three point shooting. “We have dominant post guys, they open the floor up and get us good kick-out threes.”
One of Salisbury’s big guys, Gordon Jeter, who leads the team in PPG (13.9) scored a game-high 21 points, 18 of which came in the second half.
“I needed to put together a better defensive effort, my defense always pushes my offense,” Jeter said. “You can get out in transition, that’s definitely the biggest thing (for us) is converting on their turnovers.”
Salisbury seemed to have no answer on defense for the variety of scorers Marymount was throwing at them in the first half, as guards Rick Narcisse, D’Ondre Stockman and Danny Ferry all had seven or more points before halftime. As a team, Marymount shot 55 percent from the floor in the first half, and 53.8 for the game, but as Sachs reviewed the stat sheet after the game, one stat in particular stood out to him.
“We had 17 more shots than they did. 17. You’re going to win a lot of games when you do that,” Sachs said. “The more possessions you have the better your chance is to score.”
Marymount ended up with four players in double-digit points, including Stockman who claimed a team-high 19, but the Sea Gulls forced 19 turnovers, including four steals from Justin May, who stole two inbound passes in a row late in the second half with just under 10 minutes to go, which helped increase the Sea Gulls’ lead from one point to five.
After Stockman made two free-throws, Marymount took a brief 56-55 lead with six minutes left in the game, but the Sea Gulls responded with a 9-4 run capped off by a Gordon Jeter layup and never looked back.
Their fifth straight win gives the Sea Gulls both the second spot in the CAC standings behind Christopher Newport University (15-1, 9-0) and momentum heading into a three-game road stretch.
“Rebounds, turnovers and free-throws, those are the big stats,” Sachs said. “When you win two-out-of-three you win 80 percent of your games, and when you win all three you never lose.”
The game also capped off the first half of CAC play for the Sea Gulls and Saints. The Sea Gulls could have to play three road games in a week if snow prevents them from playing at Penn St-Harrisburg on Saturday.
“We have a lot ahead of us,” Sachs said. “Home losses kill you, the Harrisburg and St. Mary’s loss they hurt and now we have to avenge those on the road.”